Focus comes first. Ash once coached a hunter who was having trouble hitting fast-flying teal. There were plenty of birds, and they were flying everywhere. "His eyes were like ping-pong balls bouncing around in the back of a truck," Ash recalls. The man was simply unable to focus on a single bird. Ash instructed him not to shoot but to watch one bird at a time, concentrating on that bird. After this lesson, the man said later that the teal weren't flying as fast as he originally perceived them, and he proved it by shooting two doubles.
Much of what Ash advocates is to have complete focus on the target, which is then followed by a careful and controlled automatic gun mount. He cites studies that it takes 3,000 repetitions for an athletic motion to be ingrained in one's subconscious mind. Consider how many times a professional basketball player practices free throws or a golfer repeats putts, and it's not surprising that a seasonal shotgunner might have a less than perfect gun mount.
Ash recommends an indoor exercise that hunters can use to build muscle memory so the gun mount becomes automatic, confident, and fluid. All one needs is a small, tight-beamed flashlight that can be inserted into the barrel of an unloaded shotgun and taped around the muzzle. In a dimly lit room, imagine the seam of the wall and ceiling is the flight path of a crossing target. The goal is to smoothly mount the gun and swing the beam along the ceiling seam without it dipping over or under. "It doesn't have to be fast, but it must be perfect," Ash says.
More tips for a great shot:
Make the Toughest Shot by Not Taking It
"I think for most people, the most difficult waterfowling shot is the incoming overhead," Gary Goodpaster says. "It's difficult because you lose sight of the target. You start behind the bird, and as you move the gun to the front of the bird, you lose sight of it. There's a limit to how far you can move your body without falling over backwards, and it's worse if the sun is in your eyes. What I do is turn around and take the bird as a high going-away shot, and that way, you don't lose sight of him. All you do is put the sight underneath him as your lead, and you can still see the target."